Mick has beaten me to the punch on Slugger, but I received the same e-mail he broke earlier, explaining why Conservative NI vice chairman, Jeffrey Peel, has resigned from the Conservatives and Unionists’ joint committee. I have no desire to get involved in apportioning blame or a bitter round of recriminations. But it has saddened me, that when members should have galvanised to put across immediately an important political message, there has instead been an undignified and childish spate of wrangling about branding.
This has been played out with peculiar vehemence on several blogs. So that one or two in particular have become, for a time, effectively dedicated to attacking members of respective political parties whose values and aspirations the authors have previously purported to share.
I am not desperately interested in these spats, their whys and wherefores, and I do not want to become involved in them. As far as I’m concerned the issues underlying disagreements have in no regard justified the acrimony and ill feeling which surround them. There has been more than a hint of breast beating, aimed at establishing placement in the pecking order within the new group. And it seems that this process has claimed an early victim.
The truth is that both sides have been needlessly intractable, although from the beginning it was inevitable that some noses would be put out of joint. The NI Conservatives are a small political group locally, and whilst their contribution to the new force is valuable, it is through cooperation with Ulster Unionists that CCHQ hopes to roll out national politics in Northern Ireland. It has been accepted centrally that this must represent a process, which will be advanced over a relatively long time frame. Clearly some people within the Northern Ireland party don’t have patience enough for this long game.
Ulster Unionists, for their part, must recognise that if this force is to work, if it is to be meaningful, then they must accept change. Initially some people might be taken outside their comfort zones and there might be some casualties. But the truth is that the UUP was failing. Abjectly. It has been given an opportunity to advance unionism in a direction which previously only existed as intellectual aspiration. It is not possible simply to use David Cameron and the Conservatives as an electoral fillip to boost an unreformed UUP. If it were possible, it wouldn't in any case be a useful exercise.
At length I have espoused the benefits of this linkup and endorsed its pan-UK, equal citizenship agenda as unionism at its most constructive. It is a vision which is far too important to be jettisoned because of an unseemly bout of bickering.
The Conservative / UU carpet might yet get bloodier. Which is deeply regrettable. If needs must, then this should take place as inconspicuously as possible.
Meanwhile the respective leaderships must get a grip of this situation, get a grip of their troops and start putting together a coherent, unified campaign for the European election.